A Curve In Three Dimensional Space

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Behold: NGC 7293, aka, the Helix Nebula – the brightest and closest example of a planetary nebula – the expanding, glowing shell of ionised gas created in the last days of a Sun-like star. One day, our own dear Sol might look like this. To wit:

The outer gasses of the star expelled into space appear from our vantage point as if we are looking down a helix. The remnant central stellar core, destined to become a white dwarf star, glows in light so energetic it causes the previously expelled gas to fluoresce. The Helix Nebula […] lies about 700 light-years away towards the constellation of the Water Bearer (Aquarius) and spans about 2.5 light-years. The featured picture was taken with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) located atop a dormant volcano in Hawaii, USA. A close-up of the inner edge of the Helix Nebula shows complex gas knots of unknown origin.

(Image: CFHT, Coelum, MegaCam, J.-C. Cuillandre (CFHT) & G. A. Anselmi (Coelum)

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